The convergence between OSH and sustainability

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Source: Wikipedia

For more than three years now, I´ve been studying the convergence of a number of occupational safety and health actions and policies with the performance of corporate social responsibility and sustainability within the organizations.

I started in 2012. During that year, I followed-up the case of the labour conditions among the Chinese supply chain of Apple: a case raised as a social responsibility issue, based on some environmental, labour and safety and health breaches throughout the Apple´s suppliers chain [1].

In some way, being focused in a firm like Apple is logical: the greatest organizations are managing its sustainable development and social responsibility for decades, until now, when these duties are a key part of their main corporate strategies and policies. In addition, the public repercussion of such a huge organizations, provides a vast amount of information, hardly available when it comes to smaller companies.

Some months later, mainly during 2013, I knew the specific cases of smaller and local firms starting to manage its social responsibility which, little by little, were including certain safety and health actions as a part of their sustainability and social responsibility strategies and policies. Namely, the paradigmatic case of the firm Proton Electrónica [4]; for me, real “Irvine and Mallory” in the EHS management.

However, despite this step forward, the performance of risk prevention remained, in general, excessively linked to the laws compliance. This doesn´t means that today it doesn´t occur, but just two years ago, the legal framework seemed to be the only valid approach for the safety and health performance at the managerial level. It was a conflicting situation: on the one hand, you were in front of an emerging and positive approach in which the OSH duties may be developed but, at the same time, you felt constrained for certain fear to surpass the traditional legal frame.

2014 was a critical year towards this approach. That year the concept “sustainable prevention” [2] became, in certain way, institucionalized in the  XX Congress on Safety and Health at Work in Frankfurt, and the European commission launched the new OSH strategy 2014-2020, more related to the European Horizon 2020 research and innovation programmes -which are in fact all about sustainable development, social responsibility and health- than ever before.

From a practical point of view, 2014 was a crucial period for the establishment of sustainability and social responsibility management standards, as well as tools for the strategic management of safety and health in the organizations [3]. A sound use of these tools and standards may make a difference in the performance of any duty. In this case, in the OSH field. Indispensable.

Weeks ago, I attended a CSR Congress held in Zaragoza and I got the feeling that the risk prevention professionals must see the corporate sustainability and responsibility not just like a good ally, but also to consider the convergence between all these disciplines as inevitable.

The time is now.

[1] ARAGON VALLEY. 30 Mar 2012. James Bond y el caso de la manzana mordida (iSafety V). Consulted 10 Mar 2015.
[2] ARAGON VALLEY. 25 Aug 2014. The age of the sustainable prevention. Consulted 10 Mar 2015.
[3] ARAGON VALLEY. 31 Jan 2015. Tools for the strategic management of safety and health in the organizations. Consulted 10 Mar 2015.
[4] ARAGON VALLEY. 30 Apr 2013. Ejemplo de liderazgo en una organizacion: Protón. Consulted 10 Mar 2015.